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Harold & Stella: Love Letters

comedy · stella! productions · Ages 13+ · United States

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Review by ALEXANDRA CORWIN

June 23, 2014
tagged as: hollywood · broadway · historical · theater

My overall impression

This magnificent review by Bonnie Priever at examiner.com just came out:
“Harold & Stella” Love Letters is basically a beautiful love story/romance between the legendary Stella Adler (queen of modern acting) and Harold Clurman (king of American theatre). Framed around the precarious time of pre WWII, this story is full of angst, love, poetry in motion, and amazing communication through the written word, between two war-torn lovers, each a brilliant individual in his/her own right. Clurman, so credibly played by Bill Ratner & Stella, exquisitely portrayed by Bill’s real life daughter (Arianna Ratner), share their intimate relationship in the most cozy of venues, a dark coffeehouse on Fountain and Vine (Bliss Art House Cafe), with food and beverages served up, and emotions soaring. The chairs, wooden and hard, are quite similar to those high chairs, props for Bill and Arianna onstage, reading the real life love letters written by the two luminaries, the show’s namesakes.

The wonderful chemistry between the two actors is imminent from show’s start.. We find Harold ( B. Ratner) unequivocally stating “I’m only interested in you sexually… for your innate beauty.,, and am willing to support you to the best of my ability.” She works diligently for Jewish political causes in NYC, mingling with the high society elite, while Harold woos her, worshipping her like an idol: a dreamer, philosopher in character. The audience learns of their roots, Harold: "I didn’t speak Yiddish, growing up in the lower east side, NYC; Stella: “I’m a Jew from Odessa.” The two came from deeply Jewish backgrounds, spending much dialogue on oppression, pogroms.. from the Depression… to Hitler’s reign. The letters, set against this historical backdrop, are filled with poetic musing and humorous takes on the reality crashing before them, as they face challenges, getting by on a skimpy theatrical lifestyle/earning. They arrive in Hollywood, and meet all the greats, such as playwrights and directors – Clifford Odets; Moss Hart; and Elia Kazan.

Following the play, the audience is treated to a short film clip, highlighting the esteemed life of Stella Adler, and her iconic school of acting, revealing her inspirations, such as her beloved father Jacob Adler of the Yiddish theatre, as well as Stanislavsky and Lee Strasberg, with whom she held very contrasting styles and ‘artistic differences.’ This film was a stunning depiction of Stella Adler’s historical role in American theatre as we know it today. This play is truly one of the highlights of Hollywood Fringe Fest 2014."

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